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Social Media-Related Litigation Surges, Lawyers Report

By William Vogeler, Esq. | Last updated on

Most lawyers say that lawsuits involving social media and mobile devices are increasing, according to a new survey.

Based on 200 telephone interviews with lawyers from the largest law firms and companies in the United States, the Robert Half survey also said that 27 percent of the respondents reported more cases with personal media devices that employees use at work.

"Electronic evidence retrieved during discovery, including emails, tweets, text messages and photos, as well as GPS and web browsing history, is often enough to make or break a case," said Charles Volkert, senior district president of Robert Half Legal.

Tweet, Tweet

With President Trump putting Twitter on the front pages of the news almost daily, the social media generation has stormed over mainstream media. In an article for the American Bar Association, Andy Radhakant and Matthew Diskin saw it coming years ago.

"Few transformations have affected litigation and litigators as swiftly and as profoundly as social media," they wrote.

The new survey shows what lawyers already knew: millions of people are sharing details about their personal lives and professional activities online, and their data stored on social media networks and mobile devices are increasingly relevant to litigation.

With attorneys seeing more social media issues in the workplace, however, Volkert said employers face inherent risks with employees using personal laptops, smartphones and tablets for work-related matters. He said companies need clear guidelines for employees to protect confidential information and guard against data leaks and cyber threats.

Fair Warning

Like the internet itself, social media and mobile device issues can come up almost anywhere. Privacy suits through Facebook, email breaches on Yahoo, subpoenas for Twitter accounts...

Often, these cases become full-employment acts for lawyers. But they can turn around and bite attorneys, too, especially when it comes to employment or client issues.

One law firm learned the hard way that a client with social media skills can be a dangerous client. Lan Cai critiqued her lawyers on Facebook and Yelp, prompting them to sue her.

She won in the court of social media and in the civil court. A judge ordered the firm to pay her $27,000.

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